The first of two fantastic days of racing at Sandown takes place on Friday and Racing Post tipster Graeme Rodway returns with his best bets at the Esher venue.
The Winter Novices’ Hurdle (1.50) is always the feature on the Friday of this Sandown meeting and it has been contested by winners of the Gold Cup, Grand National and Stayers’ Hurdle in the past. Could there be another star among a stellar line up in this season’s race?
There might well be because I’ve been impressed with SOUTHOFTHEBORDER in two starts since he was bought for £145,000 following his winning of an Irish point last season, and trainer Nicky Henderson said after his last victory that: "Southoftheborder will be a proper horse."
Henderson is evidently equally impressed with the son of Leading Light, who won a bumper at Ffos Las last March and never came off the bridle when scoring over 2m at this course last month. Southoftheborder travelled and jumped well and the front three were a long way clear.
This race was pinpointed as a possible target for Southoftheborder straight after that victory and he looks certain to improve for the half-mile step up in trip. He rates an outstanding bet.
The Esher Novices’ Chase (2.25) is a superb race between two of the outstanding young talents in Britain, and STAY AWAY FAY is a confident selection to get the better of Giovinco.
Stay Away Fay developed into one of the best staying novice hurdlers in Britain last season and capped a fine campaign with a win in the Albert Bartlett at Cheltenham and a close fourth in the Grade 1 Sefton Novices’ Hurdle at Aintree. Those were two superb efforts.
The six-year-old looks certain to make a better chaser this season judging on his debut victory over fences at Exeter last month when he jumped soundly and produced a power-packed finish to win going away from the reopposing The Changing Man.
Stay Away Fay will need to improve to give 3lb and a beating to these rivals, but trainer Paul Nicholls was adamant that he had left plenty to work on before the selection’s return from a break at Exeter and there is every chance that he can make the progress that will be needed.
The 3m handicap chase (3.00) is the most open race on the Sandown card and that makes it an attractive betting heat. It could be worth sticking with Nicholls and jockey Harry Cobden yet again because they have an outstanding chance with the improving six-year-old HUELGOAT.
The selection made rapid progress after being switched to chasing at this time last year and, following a couple of spins over hurdles, looked even better back over fences on his last start.
Huelgoat ran on well to beat subsequent winner Enjoy Your Life by three lengths over 2m4f there and the front two put nine lengths between themselves and the remainder in a hot race.
An 8lb rise in the weights will require more from Huelgoat, but the step back up to 3m is certain to suit and he may well outclass these rivals from near the top of the handicap.
Times suggested the ground was softer than the description of good to soft at Wincanton last time, so conditions shouldn’t be a problem, and there is every chance he can follow up here.
This article was written by a partner sports writer via Spotlight Sports Group. All odds displayed on this page were correct at the time of writing and are subject to withdrawal or change at any time.